Quality content is well written, grammatically correct, and has good flow. It must also be focused on the user, offering real value and captivating the reader’s interest. But, even the best text has little chance of achieving its ultimate goal of being read by the masses if it doesn’t play nice with Google’s (and other search engines’) enigmatic and frequently changing algorithms.
Here are some of the latest SEO guidelines the experts recommend you follow to ensure that your carefully crafted content soars to the top of the SERPs:
FOCUS ON YOUR AUDIENCE WITH TARGETED KEYWORDS
We know. We already said to focus on the user in the intro, but this can’t be stressed enough. Google even says so in their SEO Starter Guide for webmasters.
As we journey through 2020, it’s more important than ever to remember we’re writing for real people and not search engines. That doesn’t mean keyword placement goes out the window.
Instead, it means you select “targeted keywords” (and keyword phrases) that your niche audience actively uses as they search the web.
To do that, you must also know your audience and their needs before you start to write. Some questions to ask include:
- Who is my audience?
- What do they need to know?
- Why do they need to know it?
- What keywords or keyword phrases do they use to search for more information?
To answer these questions, look for published demographics, use keyword analytic tools, or hang out on the same sites that your target audience frequents, including user forums and social media.
What’s worse than writing for search engines? Writing for yourself! You’re writing to please and inform your reader, not yourself. Write about what they need to know, in language they understand, from their point of view. Don’t include rants or personal opinions. Your intent should always be to educate, inform, solve a problem, or inspire action.
MAXIMISE READABILITY TO INCREASE DWELL TIME
How does Google know that your content is of value to the user? By determining the readability of the page.
Readability is measured by “dwell time”, the total time from clicking the link on the search results until you bounce back from the target page. The longer the interval, the higher the dwell time and readability score.
A long average dwell time tells search engines that the user found information on the page that was valuable and relevant to the keyword search.
To improve readability, every element on the page must inspire the reader to stay longer. This includes written content, graphic content, and overall page organisation. Every single thing must be engaging, including links. As a best practice, code your links so they open in a separate tab.
You can improve the visual appearance of a page in the following ways:
- Start off with an eye-catching image or infographic.
- Follow up with a gripping title and short intro that offers value right away, then promises more. Your reader may not be willing to wade through paragraphs of fluff to discover a golden nugget of knowledge.
- Make your content appear easy to read. Don’t assault the reader with a wall of text. Use short paragraphs and break up the information frequently with subheadings, lists, charts, and more images to make it scannable.
Now that the page _looks_ easy to read, you need to follow through with the writing. The content should be clear, concise, and follow a logical flow. Use simple sentence structure to make the material easy to digest.
Your mission is to get your message across, not to prove you know ALL the grammar rules. Go lightly with complicated sentence structure, technical jargon, and extra-long words, unless that fits your target audience.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO DIG DEEP!
If you skim over a topic, your page will probably not contain anything different than what hundreds of other pages have already presented to your user. Instead, dig deep into your topic for more unique information and better Google rankings.
Recognised experts like Eric Enge have tracked the SEO performance of many different sites, finding the rankings of deep content to soar, and those of weaker, more general content to drop. No surprise there.
To dig deep, you’ll need to write longer pieces, generally exceeding 2,000 words. But where will you get the information without including tons of useless fluff?
Be creative. Think up a fresh, new angle on the topic. Write a complete guide with all the information in one place and lots of reputable links. Or, skip the typical Google searches for your research and look for industry publications and technical journals. That’s where you’ll find the latest studies and data that have not yet been regurgitated all over the net.
RELY ON CITABLE FACTS INSTEAD OF GENERAL STATEMENTS
Which of the following do you think makes for higher quality content?
“The atmosphere contains an increased amount of carbon dioxide compared to the past”.
“For 800,000 years, the atmospheric level of carbon dioxide remained at or below 300 ppm, but from 1950 to 2019, this number has risen to 410 ppm”.
Instead of making general statements, state cold, hard facts—preferably with statistical information—and back it up by citing a trusted source like a government or educational website.
This practice draws the reader in and creates a higher level of trust, which Google really likes.
WRITE TO ENCOURAGE GOOGLE SNIPPETS
When a user asks Google a question, the SERP often contains featured snippets at the top to provide a quick answer. The featured snippet block includes a short answer extracted from the web page, as well as a link to the page, the page title, and the URL.
If you can entice Google to use part of your page to dynamically create a featured snippet, you’ve won the SEO game! These little blurbs push the top-ranked sites down the page and steal a significant amount of their traffic.
Here are a few ways to increase your chances of getting snipped:
- Write high-quality content.
- Answer specific questions with clear, definite answers.
- Use lists.
- Include specific statistics with citations.
When targeting a block of text for a featured snippet, be aware of Google’s changing environment. At first, snippets were restricted to about 150 characters, the same as a meta description. They’ve increased the size to over 300, covering six to seven lines on their page instead of two to three. The length often varies by subject and source. This could change again at any time.
ANALYSE THE COMPETITION’S CONTENT AND MAKE YOURS STANDS OUT
Most of the time, you’ll have lots of competition no matter what niche you choose. Before you start to write, check out what other writers have to say about the subject at hand.
Google some of your keywords to find those pages and analyse them with a critical eye. What are their strengths? Weaknesses? Could you do a better job of presenting the same information? Or, do you have unique knowledge or a different point of view that hasn’t been presented?
Be honest with yourself. Is your work better than theirs? If not, take steps to improve your content before publishing your new page. Your goal is to make your page stand out from the competition like a shining star in the midst of mediocrity.
If you succeed, you may be able to convert a large number of users to your page. If you fail, readers will rarely bounce to a bad page from a good one.
WHAT DOES GOOGLE SAY ABOUT HIGH-QUALITY CONTENT?
Google isn’t quite as mysterious as we think. In their Webmaster Guidelines, they say exactly what determines high- or low-quality content in black and white.
They prefer unique content focused on the user that is accurate and avoids deceptive or manipulative practices. A lot of their recommendations echo what we’ve covered here, including:
- Write for the reader instead of the search engines.
- Be honest and accurate; don’t lie.
- Make your page stand out by offering unique, valuable, or engaging information.
The tactics to avoid is a much longer list. Here are some of the things you shouldn’t do:
- Use dishonest tactics or tricks (black hat techniques) to increase your ranking.
- Use automatically generated or scraped content.
- Use keywords that aren’t relevant to your copy.
- Write content with no original material.
- Include hidden text or links.
- Publish content with poor grammar or spelling errors.
Writing engaging, high-quality content takes practice, perseverance, and attention to feedback from both your readers and analytic tools. Understanding SEO and Google’s current rules is just as important as knowing proper grammar and how to turn a phrase for maximum effect. By taking the time to keep your skills and knowledge up to date, your pages will have a better chance of ranking well on Google and other search engines.